An analysis of the factors influencing the use of indicators in the European Union

Bell, Simon and Morse, Stephen (2011). An analysis of the factors influencing the use of indicators in the European Union. Local Environment, 16(3) pp. 281–302.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13549839.2011.566851

Abstract

Indicators and indices (I&I) have been popular among a section of the policy and science communities for some years and are often promoted as a vehicle to help make sustainable development a reality. One of the claimed strengths of I&I is their ability to present complex data and trends to policy-makers. It is assumed that I&I can help to make policy and, indeed, management more transparently evidence based; yet this assumption has rarely been tested. This paper describes the results of a research project designed to address this assumption. Three main conclusions were arrived at:

(1) I&I are not static measures that are created and remain constant but instead they change with time as a result of a “natural selection” process;

(2) there is value in a move away from the dominance of a limited number of I&I in policy towards a more diverse set of I&I, but there are many obstacles to achieving this; and

(3) the evidence-based rationality of which I&I are meant to be a constituent does not exist. I&I are but one source of influence among many. Indeed, what is meant by “success” with regard to a policy influence of I&I is debatable.

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